During the last debate in the NDGOP’s red hot gubernatorial primary Fargo businessman Doug Burgum made an issue over Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s tepid endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In fact, it was probably one of the most heated exchanges of the debate:
In what was perhaps their most pointed exchange, both candidates were asked to further explain their support of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Stenehjem, who hasn’t yet given a ringing endorsement of Trump like U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, said he’d support the nominee at the convention this summer, but did so without saying Trump’s name, something Burgum took aim at.
“Kudos as a career politician that you can actually do that, but it’s important for us as a state to have a friend in the White House who can be supportive of North Dakota,” Burgum said. “As a business leader, it was very refreshing to hear his remarks in Bismarck last week.”
“I disavow his statement and reject his assessment of the judge’s motivation,” Stenehjem said in an emailed statement. “This incident is entirely inappropriate and unacceptable for anyone to make, and especially so for anyone who seeks to be president.”
Burgum’s campaign was much briefer in its response, saying through communications manager Kate Mund, “Doug does not agree with Donald Trump’s comments or language.” Mund said the campaign would have no further comment.
I think Burgum’s endorsement of Trump was one of the phoniest, most cynical things he’s done in his lavishly-funded, no-holds-barred push to put himself in the governor’s office. Were the man not running for governor I expected we’d be reading about Burgum condemning Trump’s comments in the left-wing High Plains Reader or something.
But because Burgum felt like endorsing Trump might give him an advantage with Republican primary voters he did it, and tried to make hay when Stenehjem’s own support for Trump was lukewarm.
It’s looking like that stratagem has backfired. To be sure, Trump is going to be a liability for every Republican on a ballot this election cycle, Stenehjem included, but with Burgum probably needing a big influx of liberal voters in North Dakota’s open primary to put him over the top against Stenehjem, Trump’s shenanigans will weigh especially heavy.